Sunday, 20 November 2016

More pointless noise from the BBC

Who said what and when is to me completely irrelevant. The fact is that most Vote Leave politicians did at some point say that we would leave the single market. The official line was that Britain would leave the EU unilaterally. They said so on their website. That content has now been removed.

That though was never really picked up on in the popular narrative because the media decided Vote Leave had no official plan, and Vote Leave were in no hurry to correct them - with both Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart both appearing on the BBC saying that it wasn't their responsibility. Julia Brewer Hartley said much the same.

Then in the treasury select committee meeting when pressed, Dominic Cummings declined to say whether we would or wouldn't leave the single market, instead leaving poor old Rachel Reeves deeply confused by denying we were even in the single market. This line was later repeated by Gove.

Some had their ideological reasons for wanting to leave the single market while others like Kate Hoey merely bleated that we should leave the single market because she was clearly doing no thinking of her own - and to this day I doubt she could give us a satisfactory definition of what it means.

Others like Owen Paterson, for a time, made it quite clear that we should join Efta and remain part of the single market - until such a time he caved into peer pressure on the Tory right. He is a man reputed to agree with the last person he spoke with. As to Ukip, there is footage of Farage repeating the EEA line. Ukip though changed their position the moment it became a media narrative that the EEA meant continued freedom of movement. Leave.EU momentarily flirted with the Norway Option only to back down a day later for the same reasons. As for Daniel Hannan, his opinion changed by the hour and still does to this day.

So, it is a matter of historical fact that the leave campaign was unable to present a coherent position and kept things deliberately vague so that the EEA could be deployed as an argument when convenient, and dropped when inconvenient.

So what are we to make of this mess? Well one thing leavers are all agreed on is that the customs union, which was never even a referendum issue, is something that we must leave in order to make our own trade deals. The question of the single market however remains open ended.

We could if we wanted play games with deduction. After all Vote Leave did say they wanted to spend £350m a week on the NHS, which would require ending all payments to the EU - and thus would be a unilateral exit from the EU and thus not part of the single market, but there is now a broad consensus that we won't be spending that money on the NHS thus everything else is now up for debate. There is a broad mandate to leave the EU but nobody voted with a view to terminating all trade and diplomatic relations with it.

Consequently nobody in Vote Leave has the right to call the shots and since parliament has been so keen to insert itself in the debate it is now a matter for deliberation. The arguments must be heard and assessed on merit.

For that to happen we need to know from hard Brexiteers what why they want to take such a course of action. Ask any hard liner and they will tell you it's because they want to end freedom of movement and to be free of EU regulation and free of the ECJ. They also want to end payments to the EU.

Except of course that Efta states are not under the jurisdiction of the ECJ, Efta court decisions are not binding. Further to this, Liechtenstein has limits on freedom of movement. As to being free of EU regulation, I would like to hear from Mr Gove why it is that New Zealand, India, Canada and the US are presently overhauling their food safety laws. The answer to that question is that all new technical standards and regulations for signatories of the WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade are adopted from global regulators and the EU is now subordinate. It no longer makes the rules.

What that means is that the rules we would adopt as part of the EEA would be exactly the same ones we would have out of the EEA. And the truth is that Norway does not adopt every EU law - and of the ones it does adopt it has a voice in creating them at the level above the EU. The globalisation of regulation is an issue that still escapes most in the media.

So really that just leaves the matter of payments to the EU. If we do leave the single market and erect non tariff barriers then we are adding considerable cost burdens to business and making trade more expensive. That then reduces tax receipts for the UK government. So can any of the hard Brexiteers provide even a scrap of evidence that suggests we will be better off to the tune of £350m a week?

Moreover, part of what we pay to the EU goes to EU decentralised agencies that safeguard trade from counterfeit goods, food fraud and terrorism. Naturally we would need to replace all of these systems. What happens in the interim and who is going to pay for it?

Readers of this blog will be aware by now that I can elaborate on any one of these points in considerable detail. It's all there if you go through the archives. To date no Vote Leave politician has offered a satisfactory case for leaving the single market. Norway as an EEA member gets to make its own trade deals, has a veto on the rules it adopts and could very well use the same safeguard mechanisms on freedom of movement. Britain has a better chance as we have a good deal more clout than Norway.

It is really incumbent on leavers to make the case for leaving the single market. Considering all they have talked about since the referendum is free trade it is really for them to explain why erecting physical barriers to trade makes the UK better off. In this, the likes of Open Britain are doing a feeble job in making the case for the single market. With arguments as thin as the ones put forth by John Redwood, the hardliners should have been routed from the debate by now. But then I suppose that's what you get when you pretend the one organisation that did have a Brexit plan doesn't exist.

At this point though, I don't really care. This is all noise for the entertainment of the media.
As it happens I trust Mrs May and I trust my own analysis. We can, on paper, leave the single market and negotiate the right to deviate from close customs cooperation and regulatory harmonisation, but when it comes to the test we will leave it alone. May will keep us in the single market, probably by stealth because of all the "soft brexit is not brexit" morons. Because of them Brexit is going to be a lot more expensive than it should be.

In the meantime, if Mrs May is keeping her plans quiet is so she does not enrage her own party - not because she has a hard Brexit in mind. Hard Brexit has been off the table for a long time now. Some in the media are beginning to realise this. The kind of pointless bickering we see on The Sunday Politics is politics as entertainment and has little bearing on the actual outcome. Any hopes that Brexit would revitalise our media seem at this point to be well and truly dashed.

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